For many baseball fans who grew up within the last 40 years, there's a decent chance that Ken Griffey Jr. holds a spot on several Mt. Rushmores of the greatest MLB players. If his 99.3% vote on the 2016 Hall of Fame ballot — which was the highest figure ever until Mariano Rivera came along and was a unanimous entrant — is any indication, then Junior is about as highly respected as any in the game.
That's why it's so cool to hear who falls on his Mt. Rushmore of MLB legends. No he doesn't include himself, which shouldn't come as a surprise. Though he was as confident as they come, it wouldn't fit for the extremely likable and fun-loving Griffey to place him on his own pantheon.
And while some of the all-time greats that he mentioned to hosts Russell Wilson and Jeff Dye on the "DangerTalk" podcast come as no surprise, there was one that caught me off guard. However, Griffey had an additional explanation as to why he appeared on there.
"Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron," Griffey said, before taking a longer pause. "Willie Stargell. And why I pick Willie, because he actually taught me how to play the outfield when I just got drafted."
Well, if Stargell's training led to plays like this, then it's hard to argue that pick.
It also doesn't hurt that Pops — no, not Ken Griffey Sr., but Pops Stargell — clubbed 475 home runs over his 21-year career, taking home seven All-Star selections, two Home Run crowns and one MVP award.
"Everybody thinks that he's a first baseman and blah, blah, blah," Griffey said. "He played outfield. He (told) me what foot to go on, here's how to catch the ball, because I only played two years of high school baseball and I only played, basically, two-and-a-half years of center field before I was drafted."
Griffey explained that he was a pitcher and first baseman up until he was 14 or 15 years old due to his big frame and because he was left-handed. The left-handed Stargell was the same way, at 6-foot-2 and 188 pounds, but played 1,296 games as an outfielder throughout his career as opposed to 848 as first base. While only eight of those games were played as a centerfielder, those eight games came without Stargell committing any errors.
Wilson and Dye also asked Griffey to recall his Mt. Rushmore of previous teammates, which the Mariners and Reds legend expanded to five faces after calling Alex Rodriguez a top-two teammate he had ever played with. Also making the cut were Hall of Fame DH Edgar Martinez, Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin and outfielders Adam Dunn and Jay Buhner — much to the chagrin of Frank Costanza.
Surprisingly, none of the 2008 White Sox made the list despite Griffey's super well-remembered 41-game stint there at the end of his career.